An agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has been implicated in a scheme to launder $7 million in drug profits, according to a report from the Associated Press. Leonardo Concepcion, the attorney for an alleged co-conspirator, declined a request for comment on the case but described it as one “involving serious corruption by a DEA agent.”
Concepcion is the lawyer for Gustavo Yabrudi, a DEA informant with American and Venezuelan dual citizenship. According to five current and former law enforcement officials, Yabrudi and former DEA agent Jose Irizarry are accused of conspiring to launder more than $7 million in drug profits. Irizarry’s Colombian wife, Nathalia Gomez, is a relative of Diego Marin, one of the top money laundering suspects of the past ten years, according to U.S. and Colombian officials.
Irizarry and Yabrudi, one of his clandestine informants, allegedly set up an offshore account for drug cartels that wanted to send illicit profits back to Colombia. The funds were used to buy shipping containers full of electronic and textile goods, which were then shipped to Colombia for resale in discount markets. The funds were then transferred back to the cartel, minus a commission for the money launderers.
Undercover Operation Gone Awry
Irizarry, who was based out of Miami, had received permission from superiors to set up an undercover operation of shell bank accounts, phony companies, and couriers to transfer commercial goods and money from suspected drug dealers. But he didn’t tell them about the account he had set up with Yabrudi.
“None of these deposits, nor the use of the funds that followed, were officially sanctioned DEA operations,” federal prosecutors wrote in court filings. Irizarry is also accused of stealing money from the secret fund by providing the cartel with phony DEA or bank seizure orders.
Yabrudi recently pleaded guilty to money laundering and admitted stealing cash from the secret account in order to give it to an unnamed “co-conspirator 3,” who is, in fact, Irizarry, according to the AP sources. Yabrudi knew that the funds were illegal drug proceeds and that his co-conspirator had been “acting outside the scope of his authority” as a DEA agent, according to court records.
Irizarry came under suspicion after an $87,000 wire transfer to a drug dealer in Cali, who was actually an informant for a money laundering task force, failed to arrive. A tip from that informant led to Yabrudi’s arrest. An Internal Revenue Service agent also notified the DEA after receiving a call from Irizarry about a seized commercial shipment that he believed was suspicious.
It is not known if Irizarry has been charged in the case and his whereabouts are not known. A DEA spokeswoman said that he resigned from the DEA after being recalled from Colombia in 2017. Despite being known for having expensive tastes and throwing wild yacht parties with sex workers before his activities were exposed, Irizarry was considered a model agent within the DEA.
“He was the superstar everyone wanted to be,” said a former law enforcement official.